Again, lost this blog for a bit! Finding space here feels important as we move into Spring and I see growth, change & transformation at every turn. I’ve completed my first year of graduate school. This feels at once miraculous and like the most natural thing in the world. The amount of practical, logistical and emotional support that I have received from those around me cannot be overstated. Every day, I realize how fortunate I am.
Was it hard? Oh hell yes. Hardest thing I’ve ever done. The 2nd year will be harder still as I add 20 hrs/week of internship to working my current job, classes, and single-parenting. Am I nervous? Scared? Yes. AND, this nervousness feels as though it is arising from a different place in me. A more anticipatory, resourced, resilient place. The flutter in my chest is less threatening. I sense this as a “healthy fear.” A respect for the difficult tasks ahead paired with the knowledge that I am capable, aware, awake.
I am a worker bee. I enjoy intense physical efforts. I admire those who meet challenges head-on. I look up to individuals who have faced seemingly impossible hardships in their lives and somehow USE that suffering to better themselves and those around them. Struggle. Suffering. Grit. Tenacity. Resilience. Self-reliance. I like to GET SHIT DONE. Cross things off the list and keep moving. I have been drawn to ultra marathons for this reason. They are a fairly direct path right to that place inside myself that wants to quit. The ability to overcome pain in the physical realm gives me proof and evidence of my strength that I can then carry over into my daily life.
The drive, determination, striving, pushing….these are qualities I have embraced. For much of my childhood and teen years, I feared challenge. I was not awake to the well of strength that existed deep within me. So I quit. Over and over. It wasn’t until I left for college that I began to tap into my empowered self. I would subsequently gain and lose that sense of true, capital-S Self over much of my adult life. My 30s showed me how devastatingly low I can go. My 40s have, so far, shown me how strong I can be.
AND, (not but), I have seen and felt the other side of all this striving, pushing, running, overthinking. All this DOING. The dirty little secret of all this amazing and admirable HARD WORK: It’s exhausting. Depleting. When all this effort originates from a place of fear (fear of getting behind, fear of not doing enough, fear of not doing it right), there seems to be a gradual disconnect from Self. Striving removes us from the present moment. WHO KNEW??!! We are so conditioned to bust our asses, achieve, fall into bed each night exhausted from all that chasing.
What has arisen for me throughout this past year of often painful, vulnerable self-examination is this: If I relate to my Self (and all my flaws, “mistakes”, missteps) with loving compassion, my striving (doing, running, goal-chasing) is rich with empathy and therefore much less depleting. In this space, I am not driven by fear. I’m still working my butt off. But it’s with awareness. Kindness. And a lot fewer nasty “shoulds” and “should haves”.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve experienced my depression and anxiety as “homesickness”. It feels like a sad, deep melancholy. I’ve spent many years of my life attempting to soothe myself and satisfy that longing. Food, alcohol, sex, love. I don’t need to tell you that none of that worked. Another seemingly innocent tool I’ve greedily grabbed off the shelf is busyness. GO GO GO. If I keep going, I won’t have to pause.
The fascinating thing that I’ve noticed in the past year is that in the brief pause – in the moment of stillness, quiet, “doing nothing” – therein lies a deep knowing. A wisdom. A homecoming of sorts. Coming home to myself. The irony of this makes me chuckle. WOW – I JUST NEEDED TO STOP RUNNING. I was operating on the belief that constant motion was the answer. Constant worry, thinking, doing.
Learning to pause may be one of the most valuable lessons I have learned this year. One I will surely take with me into the therapy room. Within the “pause” there exists such truth.
Practically speaking, here are a few of the tools that I am discovering to be monumentally helpful & nourishing in my continual quest for rich pauses and a return “home”:
- Daily meditation – This has been on my to-do list (love those lists!) for about, um, 25 years. Coming to terms with my resistance to “sitting still and doing nothing” has been interesting. All I can really say is, the more you do it, the more you will love it and begin to reap the benefits in so many tangible ways. My next step in this journey is to join a weekly meditation group here on the island. For starting your own practice, I highly recommend guided meditations by Tara Brach. Her recorded talks are amazing as well.
- Hakomi therapy – After nearly a lifetime of traditional talk therapy (which I still find highly valuable and important), I learned about Hakomi therapy from a fellow cohort member at school. With trepidation at first, I began seeing a Hakomi practitioner at the beginning of this year. With my history of mind-body disconnect and difficulty accessing feelings, Hakomi has provided a fundamental missing piece in my journey back to myself.
- Community – Allowing myself to grow into a nurturing community of supportive, loving people in different areas of my life has been huge. My standard “I got this!” “I can do it by myself!”” No thanks!” has softened a bit with the realization that through honest, vulnerable human connection, we begin to really truly see ourselves. As an introvert who requires a good chunk of time alone, this has been challenging but so rewarding. Grateful.
- Ayurvedic practices – In my 20s & 30s, I spent a lot of time studying Eastern traditions around health, nutrition, healing. Acupuncture was a staple for me. Yoga used to be a daily thing. Go Go Go Erin stopped those practices but has (thankfully!) warmed back up to these more mellow and subtle modalities. The wisdom of our own bodies is what I keep returning to. I sought out an Ayurvedic counselor on the island to discuss some of my fatigue/low energy/old lady complaints. In meeting with her I began to unpack more of the irony around my striving nature…It’s making everything HARDER. When your body is in constant fight/flight, all kinds of unpleasantness happens. I’m so curious to dive into this area more. For now, I’ve started daily abhyanga massage. This is a free, 10-minute personal ritual that I’m kind of pissed I’m just now learning about! If you struggle to relax your nervous system, have an entangled emotional relationship with your body and difficulty receiving touch, I HIGHLY recommend giving this a try. Game changer.
- Reduced TV/internet & more books – This is kind of a no-brainer but super challenging. More quiet reading of books held in my hand = more nourishment. We really are affected by what we CONSUME. Including news, social media, entertainment.
- ROUTINE – Creating a nourishing daily routine is so calming. Hard to do when you are juggling 5 million tasks. I am not very good at this one yet. Waking up earlier, taking time for quiet ritual, exercise, preparing good food – seemingly so simple and yet it really does require dedication & commitment. This is where I try to remind myself to prioritize the pauses and minimize the rushing. Practice practice practice. ❤